Hightower (30th January 2009)
I would like to take this opportunity to thank penfold_99 - that worked a treat.
Also, thank you to Gatt, who has been helping me on MSN since yesterday.
From the guidance notes a UPN can be used by any organisation for educational use.
A UPN is unique so it is the best identifier to use to link students across multiple educational systems. If you replace UPN with another unique number you are just replicating a UPN's function of tracking a user.
The UPN is deem a general identifier between DCSF and the Information Commissioner but this is not enforced under the Data Protection Act as no general identifier's have been defined.
It is worth mentioning (and I think I have done before in a DPA question about sharing with external providers of VLEs) that UPN is suitable to be used as a unique identifier within a VLE / Learning Platform but the use of it, sharing of it and making it viewable should be treated in the same manner you would do within your MIS.
It is suitable as a unique identifier in this case but I believe the link between the two systems (VLE and MIS) should be secure and not susceptible to interception.
This is why companies are trying to get SIF / ZIS sorted.
rpwillis (3rd February 2009)
I would like to point out that high tower has successfully be able to achieve real time timetables within moodle for the the total sum of £0 excluding time, with out the need of a SIMS Premier Partner.
There is an inherent problem with All SIMS Premier Partners they are bound to use Capita's tools and api which are counter productive, proprietary and force you to base every thing on a Microsoft Platform.
We hae been able to implement Sims.net Timetables in Moodle without the need for any additional software paid for software.
@jenny - there are many ways of tying in with SIMS and tools such as those from penfold_99 and CLEO are raising the bar about how how MIS providers look at integration ... thankfully.
@penfold_99 - however, as much as love to see in-house developments, OSS growth and people thinking new things ... I get frustrated when I see '£0, excluding time' ... Yes, you and Hightower (and others) have got things working ... that is not suitable for all schools and there is at least one other forum member who has done the same as you, and now does it as a full time business as he would not have time to continue development or supporting his tools.
There is always a cost ... and the more used to explaining those then the more likely senior leaders in school will shrug off the alternatives to MIS partners to freely available options (ie cost is in the development, the implementation time and in the support time or costs!)
I honestly cannot say to a school, when asked by the Head or Business Manager, that use of open tools (such as those provided by yourself) does not pose a risk, especially when faced with an in-house support team that are already overworked and not always kept in the loop. Often the improvements it brings and the cost savings outweigh the risk ... but the risk is there.
I am continually try to improve the SIMS.net Timetable module to reduce the needed configuration, i hope to implement a moodle GUI configuration page so non-programming techs can easily setup this module.
I'm lucky that i work at a school which is very supportive of OSS.
The point i was making with '£0, excluding time' is that if you went with a proprietary product it would be '£xxxx, excluding time'.
SMT understand money not cost of time. Yes OSS will that longer to setup but the purchase cost is £0.
Would you prefer is i offered the SIMS.net module at a cost? or offer support contracts?
to be honest it is not really aimed at you and the stuff you have produced. We can consider ourselves lucky that you work in a school that is happy for you to continue to release your work for free.
If I am asked about risks in your particular case i would point out that the school may decide that work you are doing is their property and they want to earn revenue from it, that you may decide to set this up as a private business and either sell the code as a product or sell your support for it as a service (the latter fits in with OSS models) or we have the red bus / lottery problem (some people say red bus ... as in 'what happens if you are hit by a big, red buss ... I tend to be optimistic ... what happens if you win millions on the lottery and give up all work and shelve the project?)
If you have in house staff with good knowledge or the code is open to the community (or both) then this mitigates some of that risk.
Some products that are developed in house or through communities may not be able to provide support in adequate time to resolve issues. This was a flaw in free MIS developments as there are sometimes quick changes to code that is needed ... sometimes down to very specific issues for an individual school. Just ask exams officers about the problems they have when boards change things or don't deliver what is promised (last major problem was 2 years ago IIRC, but people still worry about the risk).
To be honest, it might even be better to split this off into a separate thread to allow people to discuss how they deal with individual risks of choosing software, especially when trying to persuade people that FOSS or community based projects can be a good move.
I've just blogged about the alternatives I know about for integrating Moodle with Sims and Facility CMIS.
Please let me know if I've missed any or if the summaries could be better.
Thanks for the blog, you will need to edit it once the next version of SIMS.net timetable is released, i have been able to implement a GUI configuration page in moodle and there will no longer be requirement to manually create the views, this will be done automatically on install.
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